Why Do the Irish Have Such a Close Relationship with Alcohol?
Why does Ireland have such a prominent drinking culture? It’s a difficult question to answer, although many have tried to. Perhaps the most likely suggestion for the origins of the culture is related to the Catholic church. Roman Catholicism dominates religion in Ireland, and there is a widespread belief that alcohol sales were used as a very early method of financial supporting the church. ‘We find relatively strong influences of the Catholic Church and English colonial settlement patterns on Irish drinking culture’, according to a study published in the History of Human Sciences journal.
So why has the culture remained so strong throughout the years, rather than evolving? According to researchers, the answer is simple. “We find evidence of strong associations between amounts of alcohol students consume and the drinking of their fathers and older siblings’. Whether this is purely learned behaviours or whether there are genetic factors that play a role isn’t entirely clear, but what we can conclude is that this is a culture that has been passed down through generations.
How Much Do People Drink in Ireland?
Of course, different people drink varying amounts of alcohol, but on average an Irish person over 15 years of age is believed to consume 11 litres of pure alcohol per year, according to alcohol charity Alcohol Action Ireland. That’s the equivalent of 1100 units of alcohol, based on one unit being equivalent to 10 millilitres of pure alcohol. To put that in perspective, that’s 3 units of alcohol per day - that’s about 3 shots of Irish whiskey, or 1 pint of beer. Shockingly. beer is the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage in Ireland, according to the World Health Organisation. In the past few years, wine has overtaken spirits to become Ireland’s second favourite tipple.
Ireland vs. Europe
The warm Mediterranean, and cold Baltic countries such as Russia and Poland, are also famous for their drinking culture, so how do they compare to Ireland? Reports suggest that while Ireland is more known for it’s big blowouts and celebrations (or, to put it more frankly, it’s binge drinking), other countries are more known for their consistency when it comes to alcohol consumption. In Portugal. for example, 43 percent of the population drink on a daily basis, whereas only 3 percent of the Irish population consume alcohol every day.
It could be argued that the Mediterranean regions and Northern Europe have a much more damaging relationship with alcohol, but Ireland has a higher population of drinkers compared to the European average, and reports some of the highest rates of ‘heavy’ drinking - 39 percent claim to binge drink, compared to just 19 percent in Russia.
How is Alcohol Affecting Health, Life & Mortality?
While Ireland’s drinking culture is a huge part of the countries claim to fame, it’s not doing us any favours when it comes to health and life expectancy. Between 66 and 68 percent of all liver cirrhosis diagnoses in Ireland can be attributed to alcohol, and between 8 and 19 percent of all road deaths on Irish roads have been caused by intoxication. Even everyday life is being affected by the drinking culture, with 1083 work and study days being lost in Ireland every year due to alcohol-related illness. For many Irish people, drinking is a normal part of life, but it’s important to understand the risks associated with alcohol, and know your own limits.